How to English:past simple
How to English is a blog series in which I share tips and tricks I have learned in my 25 years of teaching ESL. The goal is to clearly and concisely present the “must know” information for the given topic. I would love for other teachers and students to comment and share their knowledge, as well.
TARGET: Mastery of past simple is confirmed when the student can:
Consistently create past forms of regular and irregular verbs
Form affirmative and negative statements
Form ‘yes/no’ and information questions
Use time markers associated with past simple
Demonstrates understanding of meaning and use for actions and states which both started and finished in the past.
Students must understand that regular verbs have ‘ed’ added to the end of the verb
If the verb eds in a consonant + Y, delete Y and add IED
Ex: Cry ⇒ Cried
If the verb ends in a vowel + Y, just add ED as usual.
Ex: Play ⇒ Played
If the verb ends in CONSONANT + Y, there is a spelling change (IES).
Students must understand that some past simple verbs do not use ED. They have a completely different form. Irregular verbs must be memorized.
Ex: Sing⇒ Sung; Eat ⇒ Ate
The 3 most important irregular verbs are BE, DO, and HAVE.
Ex: Be ⇒ Was (I, He, She, It) and Were (You, We, They).
Tip: Give students a list of irregular verbs early and drill them often. You can find one on my website, chrisinenglish.com.
In an affirmative statement, basic word order is SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT
EX.The boy watched the movie.
In a negative statement, basic word order is SUBJECT-HELPING VERB-NEGATIVE WORD-VERB-OBJECT
EX. The boy did not watch the movie.
Notice that the HELPING VERB is past simple, not the MAIN VERB.
In a negative statement, if the VERB is a form of BE, don’t use an OBJECT. But you can use an adjective.
EX. The girl was not hungry.
In a yes/no question, basic word order is HELPING VERB-SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT
EX. Did the boy watch the movie?
Notice that the HELPING VERB is past simple in a question, not the MAIN VERB.
In a yes/no answer, basic word order is SUBJECT-HELPING VERB.
EX. Yes, he did.
Do not use a main verb in a yes/no answer.
In an information question, basic word order is INFORMATION WORD-HELPING VERB-SUBJECT-VERB-OBJECT.
What movie did he watch?
Tip: Students will make mistakes differentiating was and were. This is a good opportunity to guide them towards self-correction.
MEANING AND USE:
Past simple describes actions that both started and finished in the past.
I started reading the book last week. I finished it yesterday.
Last year I did not go on vacation
Did he go to the game?
What did she cook for dinner?
Past simple describes states that both started and finished in the past.
I lived on Grape Street.
He was not tall.
Did she have green eyes?
What was your first email address?
Time markers that students should know:
Tip: Make sure students understand that we say ‘last night’, not ‘yesterday night.’